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What is your experience with the interview process at big companies? How they handle organization, how they handle code review, and so on.
Kaya Thomas: That's a great question. So, I think that, as mobile developers, the nice thing is because we have this niche, a lot of times, at least in my experience, companies will actually ask me about mobile development rather than just white boarding and algorithms.
Maybe it's just the companies that I've happened to interview, but with Slack, for example, when I was there, and then when I joined later, I helped work on the interview process as well, is we really focus on app development. So, iOS architecture, UI design, and how you build apps. How do apps interact with a server and how do you interact with APIs? These things that everyday app developers, we are asking these questions and solving these problems already. So, a lot of it shouldn't come as a surprise.
“I really don't like when companies really hone in on those algorithmic whiteboard interviews, because really the signal that gives you is this person read Cracking the Coding Interview five times, or this person really studied hard, reading those algorithms textbooks.”
So, luckily, at Slack, the interview process wasn't whiteboarding and how you solve this red-black tree or anything like that. And I honestly, personally, believe that those types interviews are really not useful. I really don't like when companies really hone in on those algorithmic whiteboard interviews, because really the signal that gives you is this person read Cracking the Coding Interview five times, or this person really studied hard, reading those algorithms textbooks. Is that really a signal that will tell you that someone's going to be a great mobile developer, and they're going to be a great addition to your team, they're going to be a great teammate, a great communicator? What signal are you really getting from that?
And I think, when you're designing an interview process, or even when you're an interviewee, I think the thing to think and realize is you're also interviewing the company. And so, if they're only doing whiteboard interviews and they're not really asking you questions about mobile development or really trying to understand what your skill level is, is that really a company you want to work for? I think that a lot of people don't ask those questions for themselves and realize that they're interviewing the company as well.
“I think the thing to think and realize is you're also interviewing the company. And so, if they're only doing whiteboard interviews and they're not really asking you questions about mobile development or really trying to understand what your skill level is, is that really a company you want to work for?”
So if you're having a terrible interview process, that says a lot about that company, and you probably don't want to work there. So, my interview process with Slack was great. They definitely focused a lot on the mobile development side and making sure that I had the skills for the actual role that I was going to be doing. And similarly at Calm.
At Calm, the interview process was focused on mobile development. Also a focus on team communication, focused on working with product managers and designers. So, I was interviewed by product managers and designers, talk about how I like to collaborate with product managers and designers. Because when you're working full time for a small company, large company or what have you, a lot of your job is collaborating and working with other people. So, it's not just working with other developers – you're going to be working with product managers, designers, engineering managers. And so a lot of the interview process there was talking about how you communicate and collaborate with those people as well.
Paul Hudson: I think you've really hit the nail right on the head there. When you are going through one of those grim technical whiteboard interviews, if that's how they hire, the instant message is “everyone else who works at this company passed that test” – that's the kind of thing they think is appropriate for hiring people. Do you want to work with that kind of company?
So, it's absolutely a two-way interview. If you get a careful hands-on practical, thoughtful interview that goes beyond just binary trees, whatever it is honing in on, that is a much more important sign for me this is a good company to work for.
This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.
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